All About Consulting – Guidelines and Resources

Sections of this topic

    All About Consulting – Guidelines and Resources

    © Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC

    Much of the content
    of this topic came from this book:
    Consulting and Organization Development - Book Cover

    Many people have the mistaken impression that consultants are people who primarily
    give expert advice to solve problems for their clients. However, a much more
    accurate description is given by Peter Block in his seminal book, Flawless
    Block explains that a consultant is someone in a role
    to help another person, team or organization to change, but who has no authority
    to make them change. Thus, a consultant can be an advisor, trainer, coach or

    This topic provides the guidelines and resources for doing consulting.
    However, you cannot develop skills in consulting, unless you actually practice
    applying that new information.

    Sections of This Topic Include

    Internal / External Consulting

    What is a Consultant, Really?
    Continuum of Roles
    Types of Consultants
    Overall Goals of Consultants
    Professionalism in Consulting

    Different Approaches in Consulting

    Phases in Consulting and Solving Complex Problems
    Examples of Phases in Consulting and Solving Complex

    How Consultants Customize Their Approaches
    Example of an Approach to Consulting: Collaborative

    Resources for Externals Starting a Consulting Business

    Resources for Starting a Consulting Business
    – – – Are You Really an Entrepreneur?
    – – – Developing Your Organization
    – – – Marketing Your Services, Getting Clients
    – – – Proposals and Contracts
    – – – Some Challenges in a Consulting Business

    Test Your Knowledge of the Field of Consulting

    Take this online quiz.

    Also consider
    Related Library Topics

    of Consulting Terms

    Learn More in the Library’s Blog Related to Consulting and Hiring Consultants

    In addition to the articles on this current page, also see the following blog
    that has posts related to Consulting and Hiring Consultants. Scan down the blog’s
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    post in the blog. The blog also links to numerous free related resources.

    Consulting and Organizational Development Blog


    What is a Consultant, Really?

    See a video
    about overview of methods of advising, coaching and facilitating; which methods to use and when; when to switch methods; and major myths about consulting.
    From the Consultants
    Development Institute

    Misunderstandings About Consultants

    As mentioned above, a consultant is someone in a role to help another person,
    team or organization to change, but who has no authority to make that change
    happen. There are many myths and misunderstandings about consulting, the most
    common of which is that consultants always provide expert advice to solve “problems”.
    Actually, a consultant might use many different styles, approaches and methods,
    depending on the nature of the client and focus of the consulting project.

    Myths of Management and Organizational Consulting Part 1

    Myths of Management and Organizational Consulting Part 2

    Continuum of Roles of Consultants

    Roles can range along a continuum from that of an expert who gives ongoing
    advice to that of a coach or facilitator who supports a person or group with
    ongoing reflective questions to bring out their own wisdom and apply it.

    Thus, consultants can act in the role of (alphabetically):

    • Coach – helping individuals to clarify and achieve a goal by helping
      them to bring out and apply their own wisdom.
    • Collaborator/partner – working with another to benefit from the mutual
    • Educator/trainer – helping others especially to develop new knowledge,
      skills and insights.
    • Expert – providing specific information and expertise in specific
    • Facilitator – helping members of a group to clarify their desired
      goals and how they want to achieve them — and then helping them to bring
      out and apply their own wisdom to achieve the goals (thus, a coach who is
      coaching a group also works in a very facilitative manner).
    • Problem solver – helping others to clarify their problems and then
      helping them to “solve” them.
    • Researcher – collecting, organizing, analyzing and reporting information
      for others.

    Other roles might include analyst, synthesizer, impartial observer, critic,
    friend and mentor.

    NOTE: The manner in which consultants works in these roles can vary widely.
    See How
    Consultants Customize Their Approaches

    Consultants Should Facilitate, Coach or Train

    Types of Consultants and Their Services

    See a video
    about definitions, types of consultants, primary goals of consultants, identifying
    real clients, and differences between internal and external consultants.
    From the Consultants
    Development Institute

    It is useful to know the general types of consulting services because they
    are often used to categorize, for example, in advertisements, catalogs of training
    programs and tracking statistics about consultants. Consultants might use roles
    ranging from the expert to the facilitator in any of the following categories
    depending on the nature of the client and focus of the consulting project.

    Types of Services

    Private Practice Consultants

    They focus on professional services, for example, counseling and coaching,
    that include helping others with individual and professional development. They
    work in a highly facilitative and collaborative manner with their clients, and
    in a highly confidential relationship, as well. (The term “private”
    is often used to suggest that the consultants are working as independent consultants.
    However, it can also apply to the strong requirement for confidentiality in
    the nature of their work.)

    (Note that the above use of the terms counseling and coaching refer to services
    that are delivered in a carefully designed relationship in order to accomplish
    significant personal goals with the client. This is in contrast to an informal
    counseling and coaching activity in which a person offers advice or thoughtful
    questions in a spontaneous conversation.)

    Technical Consultants

    They provide highly specialized content and expertise regarding certain specific
    systems and processes in the organization, for example, information technology
    and business analysis. The types of services provided by these consultants are
    often referred to as technical assistance.

    Management Consultants

    They help leaders and managers to be more productive in the practices of planning,
    organizing, leading and coordinating resources in the organization. For example,
    they can help with practices in strategic planning, financial management and
    personnel management. They might work in an expert role while training others
    about best practices and then in a facilitator role when supporting others to
    apply those practices.

    Organizational Development Consultants

    They help organizations to improve performance in a significant portion of
    the organization or in the entire organization itself. They might use a wide
    variety of approaches, for example, training about best practices in accomplishing
    successful change, facilitating groups of leaders to plan the change, and informal
    coaching conversations to maintain momentum during the change.

    Many people assert that there is a difference between the phrases “organizational
    development consultants” and “Organization Development consultants.”
    They would use the latter phrase to refer to consultants who consider themselves
    to be working in the field of Organization

    Types Can Overlap

    Each type of consultant might be needed at various times in a project. For
    example, an organizational development consultant might work with various groups
    to identify the most important problems to address in an organization. Then
    management consultants might train various managers about the best practices
    needed to address the problem, for example, strategic planning, management by
    objectives and supervision. Concurrently, a professional coach might coach the
    chief executive officer through the challenges of dealing with a major change.

    of the Field of Organization Development
    and Resources for Organizational Change Agents
    Methods and Resources for Organizational Change Agents

    Nature of Expertise

    Generalists and Specialists

    Whether the consultants are generalists or specialists depends on the nature
    of their services. The more specific the nature of their services, for example,
    information technology or market research, the more likely they would be referred
    to as specialists.

    Many people would consider private practice and technical consultants to be
    specialists. They have rather unique and extensive expertise, such as in medicine,
    counseling and coaching — even though they can often vary widely in how they
    provide their services.

    Many people would consider management and organizational development consultants
    to be generalists, although both types might use a mix of specialist and generalist
    expertise, especially when working on complex projects.

    Context of Their Services

    An external consultant is not a full- or part-time employee of the client’s
    organization and instead works independently to serve a number of different
    clients. In contrast, an internal consultant is a part- or full-time employee
    in the client’s organization. It is very useful to know the typical differences
    between the two, especially in terms of how they are viewed by their clients
    and the different parameters in their roles.

    Internal Compared to External Consultants

    Overall Goals of Professional Consultants

    To know the overall, recurring goals of professional consultants, regardless
    of their type, we again defer to Block. He suggests that the following goals
    be primary for professional consultants, especially if they are often working
    to help others accomplish significant change.

    1. Establish a collaborative relationship with your clients.
      As a consultant, you should work with your clients as if you are peers working
      as a team. Working in a collaborative fashion with your clients helps you
      ensure that recommendations — generated from you and/or the client — are
      accurate, that clients follow the recommendations and that they adopt the
      necessary changes as needed.
    2. Solve problems so your clients can solve them later themselves.
      The approach to solving the problem in the project should always involve your
      client’s learning about what is being done and why, so your client can
      very likely repeat the approach as much as possible after you are gone.
    3. Ensure equal attention to solving the problem and your relationship
      with your client.
      The quality of the relationship between you and
      your client is a reliable predictor of the quality of the outcome from the
      project. Clients often judge projects, not only by their outcomes, but also
      by the quality of their working relationship with the consultant.

    Should Be Primary Goals of Consultants?

    Professionalism in Consulting

    Professional consultants should always adhere to certain principles and ethics
    in their work, as well as continually developing themselves as individuals and
    consultants. The following resources provide numerous guidelines to help you
    as a professional.

    See a video
    about principles for successful consulting, defining “success”,
    principles for ethical consulting, managing risks and liabilities, and knowing
    when to leave. From the Consultants
    Development Institute

    You a Professional?
    Your Professional Mission and Values

    on Ourselves, as Consultants

    Principles for Effective Consulting
    How to Maintain Proper Boundaries
    How to Minimize Legal Liabilities and Risks
    to Ethics Management
    How to Work in Multicultural Environments


    Phases in Consulting Projects

    All Consultants Follow General Phases in Their Consulting – Just Differently

    All professional consultants tend to follow a general design, or framework,
    in their consulting that includes a general sequence of cyclical and highly integrated phases. Phases often include, for example, a start-up or
    contracting phase that clarifies the project’s goals and roles, then specifying
    the actions to achieve the goals, then implementing the actions and then doing
    a final project evaluation.

    Very Different Styles in Going Through the Phases

    However, different consultants might go through the same general phases very
    differently along a continuum of styles. At one end are consultants who prefer
    clearly delineated beginning and ending points for each phase, as well as specific
    kinds of sequential deliverables within them. They might see themselves as leading
    in all aspects of the project. Technical consultants often prefer this kind
    of approach to ensure that the project activities closely conform to the steps
    needed to successfully install the technical systems or practices, such as installing
    computer systems and conducting market research.

    At the other end, are consultants who, along with the client, co-create the
    content within each phase as well as the activities within each. They might
    not see themselves as working within phases, at all, but rather engaging in
    a highly collaborative dialogue in which the goals, roles and actions are continually
    unfolding from the relationship itself. Examples along this half of the continuum
    might include coaching,
    , Dialogic
    Organization Development
    , collaborative
    , whole
    systems change
    and Theory

    The various styles in going through the phases depend on a variety of factors
    that are explained in the next section, “How Consultants Customize Their

    Examples of Phases in Consulting

    Phases of Consulting
    Phases of Consulting
    Phases of Organization Development
    Consulting Cycle
    Process Models

    Organization Development Cycle

    How Consultants Customize Their Approaches

    Depends on the Type of Consultant

    If they are private practice consultants, then they probably are specialists
    in their particular profession, which often requires certification or licensure
    in the profession. However, they very often use highly collaborative and facilitative
    approaches with their clients.

    If they are technical consultants, then they probably are specialists whose
    work is often highly specific and procedural in nature. Thus, they might mostly
    offer expert advice and be rather predictable in how they work.

    If they are management and organizational development consultants, then they
    probably are a mix of specialists and generalists. They might use a variety
    of approaches ranging from offering expert advice to conducting spontaneous
    coaching conversations.

    Depends on Their Training

    Their approach to their work depends on their training in a certain philosophy
    and associated model. For example, coaches might use a specific model focused
    on life coaching or performance coaching. Trainers might use a certain model
    to design their curriculum, such as ADDIE or SAM. Managerial consultants might
    specialize in a certain practice, such as leadership development or strategic
    planning. Organizational consultants might focus on a certain organizational
    performance model, such as management by objectives or the Balanced Scorecard.

    Depends on the Nature and Needs of Their Clients

    However, all professional consultants should be able to accommodate the nature
    of the individual client and the culture of the client’s organization. For example,
    some clients learn especially from frequent interaction with the consultant.
    Others prefer frequent time alone to reflect and re-energize themselves.

    Some organizations are clearly and consistently structured in how they operate,
    including how they make decisions and solve problems. Decisions require extensive
    communication and formal approval. Other organizations are more adaptable and
    decentralized. Decisions require discussions and consensus.

    Also see How
    to Choose Which Strategies (Interventions) to Use for Change

    Example of an Approach to Consulting:
    Collaborative Consulting

    The collaborative consulting process is based on the work of psychologist Carl
    Rogers, Peter Block and others. It is not a specific model as much as a mutual
    way of working through the general process for the consultant and client during
    a consulting project. This type of process is widely used in consulting to solve
    complex problems and achieve major goals in organizations.
    Consulting for Performance, Change and Learning

    One version of the process includes the following general sequence of phases.
    They are highly integrated and often cyclical in nature.
    and Resources for Contracting Phase of Consulting
    and Resources for Discovery Phase of Consulting
    and Resources for Action Planning Phase of Consulting
    and Resources for Implementation Phase of Consulting
    (see Note 1)
    and Resources for Project Evaluation Phase of Consulting
    and Resources for Termination Phase of Consulting

    Note 1. If the focus of the consulting is on accomplishing significant change
    in an organization, then the Implementation Phase should be embellished with
    Methods and Resources for Organizational Change Agents

    Resources for Starting a Consulting Business

    This topic assumes that you already have some expertise that you could provide
    to clients in exchange for a fee and that you also have a good understanding
    of a consulting process as described in this overall topic, and that you also
    are thinking about starting a business to be a professional consultant. The
    guidelines in this topic are focused on helping you to start a new organization
    or expand a current organization.

    Are You Really an Entrepreneur?

    You Really an Entrepreneur?

    Preparation for Starting a New Venture

    10 Tips To Become a Small Business Consultant

    So You Want to Be a Consultant?
    to Become a Consultant: 9 Steps to Doing it Right
    Steps to Become a Self-Employed Consultant

    Developing Your Organization

    Starting a New One?

    You Start a For-Profit or a Nonprofit?

    a For-Profit Organization

    a Nonprofit Organization
    To Get Started In Consulting

    Planning Your New Organization

    for Starting a New Venture


    Business Planning

    Deciding the Legal Structure of Your New Organization

    Enterprise Law — Forming Organizations

    Or Expanding a Current Organization?


    Or Starting a New Product or Service?


    Marketing Your Services, Getting Clients

    Marketing Your Organization, Product or Service


    Need Clients? The 5 Best Ways to Market Your Consulting Business
    How to Promote Your Consulting Business
    Word of Mouth Marketing for Consultants
    5 Common Myths About Marketing Your Consulting Business

    Sales — Getting and Keeping Clients

    Close More Business (Get More Clients)
    Customer Service
    Customer Satisfaction
    Close More Business (Get More Clients)
    Bouncing Back After Losing a Big Client

    to Successfully Hire and Work With an Excellent Consultant

    Proposals and Contracts

    Responding to Request for Proposals

    You might develop a request for proposal (RFP) and provide it to many potential
    consultants, asking them to respond with proposals. This section will be helpful
    when developing an RFP.

    Standard Process for Responding to RFPs
    10 Things You Need to Know When Responding to an RFP
    How to respond
    to an RFP with no fear
    Tips on How to Respond to an RFP and Win that Deal


    Consultants usually respond to RFPs with a proposal that specifies how they
    can meet the requirements in the RFP.
    How to Write
    a Proposal: The Last Guide You’ll Ever Need
    for Writing Project Proposals

    anatomy of a proposal
    How to Write a Proposal As a Consultant


    See Guidelines
    and Resources for Contracting Phase of Consulting

    Some Challenges in a Consulting Business

    Fees and Getting Paid

    Set Your
    Consulting Fees Using These 5 Tried-and-True Methods

    How to Make Sure You Always Get Paid as a Freelancer or Consultant

    It Time to Consider a Fixed Fee for Your Consulting Services?

    Consultant’s Crack the Billable Hour Ceiling

    Dealing With Clients

    of Clients (to answer critical question: “who is current

    to Fire Bad Clients

    Defining Success Between Consultants and Clients

    When to Bail from a Project

    When to Bail from a Consulting Project

    Minimizing Risk

    Should Consultants Buy Liability Insurance?

    Minimize Consulting Liabilities and Risk
    Risk Management

    Staying Centered as a Consultant


    Personal Wellness

    Test Your Knowledge of the Field of Consulting

    Take this online quiz.

    To Develop Your Consulting Skills

    It is not enough to just have strong interpersonal and technical skills to
    be a highly competent consultant. You also need consulting skills.
    Consulting Skills?

    There are many resources from which consultants can start and market a consulting
    business. However, there are very few programs in which consultants can further
    develop their skills to solve problems or achieve goals in the clients’ organizations.
    Consider the following resource, the
    Development Institute

    For the Category of Organization Development:

    To round out your knowledge of this Library topic, you may
    want to review some related topics, available from the link below.
    Each of the related topics includes free, online resources.

    Also, scan the Recommended Books listed below. They have been
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